“…we all have mental health. It’s a varying degree of where we are. But there should be no stigma around the words mental health. And without that stigma I think that the shame and the secrecy would go away. The secrecy is what’s killing us.”
After Chester Bennington took his life, his wife and sister made this moving video. I felt really touched by it, more so than your average video about mental health. I don’t know if it was because I was a Linkin Park fan, or if it was the timing. Around this time, we were dealing with our own bouts of mental health within our family. Either way, it got to me, and made me feel something.
Mental health is still a topic many people are not comfortable talking about. It affects us all in one way or another, some more than others, but so many don’t want to talk about it.
But if we don’t talk about it…
How do we get help?
How do we prevent more suicides?
How do we find ways to cope?
How do we teach and inform our families and friends about what is happening?
How do we survive?
I’d like to talk from 2 perspectives today. I’d like to talk about my personal experience with the system, which I admit is limited. And then I’d like to talk as a loved one from someone struggling in the system.
As a young adult I remember feeling sad all the time. I expressed this to my primary care, and they prescribed me anti-depressants. They never had me talk to a therapist, suggested I might want to, but it wasn’t mandatory. They barely even asked any questions before they gave me that prescription. A 20-year-old, gets anxious and sad, and what’s the solution? Here try this medication. Now I’m not saying a young adult never needs medication, but shouldn’t there be, I don’t know, some more that goes into it? I took the medication for about a year, but it never solved how I felt and so I stopped.
I think for me, I just needed someone to talk to at the time. Someone to help guide me through some difficult situations in my life. I didn’t have anyone to confide in when life got difficult, and I wasn’t sure how to cope with certain situations. A couple years later, I decide I want to seek out a therapist. You’d think when you want help, it would be readily available for you. It isn’t. I called many doctors who weren’t taking new patients, or weren’t taking cases like mine. I wasn’t looking for medication, I just wanted to find an expert to talk to. Why was this so hard? I eventually find a doctor and started seeing her once a week. It helped. She helped talk me through the issues I was having at the time and offered an insight into why I’d act or feel a certain way. But when you’re young, the money just became too much. It cost $100 per session and I just didn’t have the money, so I had to stop seeing her.
Now here I am, on the lower end of the spectrum of mental health if you will, but even I didn’t really get the assistance I needed as a young adult. Coming off medication, that I don’t think I actually needed and not having the support of anyone to talk through what I was feeling, was hard. When things were particularly difficult, I remember going to sleep and wishing I didn’t wake. I remember lying in bed for days because I just felt such despair. No one in our family talked. Like really talked about things like this. And I think that was the hardest for me. It felt like I was holding in this big ball of negative energy, and it was all in secret. But I made it through those feelings. I am fortunate. I am fortunate to only have mild anxiety, that I worked through on my own over the years. I found my way, on my own. But what about those that suffer more than I? That have diagnosed mental illness? That have more extreme forms of anxiety that limit them? Is anyone helping them? Is the system set-up in a manner that helps people? Really helps people. Finds the cause of what’s going on, and works through the root and not just slaps a Band-Aid on it?
- Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people.
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
- There were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).
I’m not sure we’re doing enough. Suicides are on the rise, and no one is immune to it.
- On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
- For every suicide, there are 25 attempts
Earlier this year I got a call from my Aunt. It was towards the end of work, so I stepped out to take the call. My Aunt seemed very concerned, as she received a video call from my sister, who clearly had been very impaired. As I got off the call with her, I just had a bad feeling about this. I called my husband, who was already on his way home from work and I asked him to detour to Caitlyn’s house. In the meantime, I started to pack up and leave work. It was still nagging at me as I left, so I called 911 to do a well-being check. 911, wasn’t exactly friendly. They informed me that they had done a wellness check earlier that morning, and she was fine. I insisted. I asked if they could send even just 1 officer, because I thought something was wrong, and I was too far away. After going back and forth with the operator, she agreed to send someone. I called my husband to give him a heads up, and I continued my drive.
It felt like forever waiting. I felt so panicked.
Finally, I got a call from my husband with an update. Here’s what he had told me.
He arrived at the same time as the ambulance and police. The police knocked on the door, but there was no answer. They had to break-in the door. They found Caitlyn unresponsive, eyes kind of opening, unable to walk, with a bottle of pills next to her. She had tried to kill herself. They had to carry her out of the home, into an ambulance, and to the nearest hospital. At this time, the police told Richard to go home. I headed home as well. I called my family, to let them know what was happening at this time.
The next 48 hours were hard. Caitlyn called me a few times. Blaming me. Telling me I had no right to check on her. Telling me I had no right to call 911 and blamed me for everything that was now happening. She wasn’t easy to talk to at this point. She was angry. She needed someone to blame, and I was that person. She was detoxing from the drugs she took. She wasn’t rational. And it was hard on all of us.
Our other sister visited her in the hospital. From what I told, it was bad. Caitlyn wasn’t acting like the Caitlyn we know and love. She had so much anger toward the nurse staff, towards me, towards what was happening. She’s released that week, promising she won’t try to take her life again. She’s advised to see a doctor, but beyond that she’s just tossed back out to the world. Today, she says those days are fuzzy, they feel like a dream.
We were so scared when she was released. It felt like (to me anyways) the hospital didn’t do enough, basically they hold until she’s detoxed, she makes a promise to not do it again, and then released. Granted I wasn’t there, maybe more happened I didn’t see. I also don’t know what they should be doing, but in the moment to me, I felt like it should be more. The weeks following, it was just like, how do we know she isn’t going to try this again? It was constant worry and fear.
Some weeks later, she was diagnosed as Bi-Polar II and put on a mood stabilizer.
Prior to this, she was misdiagnosed as depressed, with anxiety. The mood stabilizers helped, she expressed that she was feeling herself and it seems the medication was doing what it should have been doing. To continue the mood stabilizers, she needs to see a doctor regularly. And the doctor visits + the medication cost money, money that many, not just her struggle to be able to maintain. And so, she goes off the medication she needs to feel okay.
I don’t know what the answers are. But it seems we should be doing more for people that need and want help. Maybe if we provided more free services to those that need it, and offer more acceptance around mental health, maybe just maybe we can start seeing a decline in suicide and addiction. Maybe if we start helping our youth, they can work through issues sooner. Maybe if we have more care, diagnoses can be made more quickly. Maybe if we made the path to recovery more accessible, just maybe more people will take it. Maybe if we talk about it more freely, both men and women won’t feel so alone in it.
Lately, I’ve been getting a new type of anxiety. I’ve become obsessed with the state of the world, and I’m having a hard time moving past fear. I’m nervous a lot of my day, I think about end of world scenarios, and I’m not sure how to stop and just live freely. So, 10 years later, I find myself looking for a therapist again. I’m fortunate to have the time and means to find what I’m looking for.
I just can’t help but think of everyone else who doesn’t.
If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org